A post by Ginny Dawe-Woodings, Special Collections placement student/volunteer.
Brunel University recently celebrated a week dedicated to Feminism, set up by the university’s Feminist Society to encourage debate and understanding of the ideology.
In Special Collections I took some time to explore our own collections and create an exhibition of pieces that illustrate women’s history. Special Collections houses a set of The Ladies Home Journal, an American magazine published from the 1880s to the present day. It was the Cosmopolitan of the day and offers a very visual insight into women’s history. We have issues dating from 1939 to 1961. A regular feature in the magazine was an article entitled ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?” which advised women on how to fix their marriages.
These extracts are taken from issues from the 1950s, they place the responsibility of a good marriage entirely with women:
“The wife who is secure in the knowledge that she and her husband love each other can accept these irritations, and will do so as a matter of course”
“she will not add to his burdens by complaining. Nor will she begrudge him an occasional burst of temper”
“one way she can help him is to be his safety valve”
“We have found in our experience, that when a husband leaves his home, he may be seeking refuge from an unpleasant environment. Could it be that your husband feels that he is not understood or appreciated in his own home? What might there be in your relations to him that could make him feel that way?”
One of the best examples of sexism in women’s history is in the form of adverts, and The Ladies Home Journal has a lot to offer.
Women’s history can also be studied via several of our other collections, including:
- Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies
- SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature & Arts Archive) which documents the contribution made by Asian women to literature and art in the UK.
- Neglected Voices documents the experience of some disabled people, mostly women.